Adaptive Radiation

One of the most striking patterns of biodiversity is its uneven distribution across the tree of life. Theory suggests that this disparity in diversity reflects feedback between ecological and phenotypic evolution. Adaptive radiations, the rapid multiplication of species into distinct ecological niches, is a key example of this phenomenon. While studies about adaptive radiation have grown exponentially over the past decades, fundamental questions remain. For example, how does phenotypic diversification unfold during radiation? How do species interactions shape species richness in adaptive radiation? Do adaptive radiations play out in parallel across continental and island contexts, or are there repeatable differences among them? The goal of this course is to critically dissect the field of adaptive radiation. Specifically, we unpack its major features and identify unresolved lacunae. To do so, we delve into the scientific literature on distinct topics related to adaptive radiation. Key papers from the literature are assigned to help guide discussion. We begin with a brief survey of recent syntheses on adaptive radiation to refresh our understanding and, most importantly, identify key gaps in empirical knowledge. Then, we explore several studies focused on less-studied axes of adaptive radiation to catalyze our thinking.

Prerequisites: BIOL 103/104 (or equivalent) and E&EB 525 (or equivalent).

Course Number: 
E&EB 834
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